Takuma Asano is a strategic transfer for Arsenal, not a Vardy alternative
Arsenal fans have spent much of the summer waiting for the arrival of a new striker. However, it's fair to say that when the club announced the acquisition of Japanese forward Takuma Asano, the news was not exactly met with widespread glee.
Even in his native Japan, this deal has come as something of a surprise. Asano, 21, is a young talent with a burgeoning reputation, but not many onlookers expected him to make a leap to the Premier League any time soon.
For Arsenal supporters, Asano's signing represents a classic public relations stunt. The club are badly in need of a new central attacker to support the inconsistent Olivier Giroud and replace the injured Danny Welbeck. That they signed a relative unknown is almost comically predictable. It is somewhat reminiscent of the summer of 2011, when chief negotiator Dick Law spent much of his time embroiled in a bid to sign Costa Rican teenager Joel Campbell rather than focusing on replacing Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
Much like Campbell, Asano is unlikely to qualify for a work permit right away. He'll have to spend at least a couple of seasons on loan, making this a signing for the future that has little potential to benefit the first-team any time soon. Throw in the very public failed pursuit of Jamie Vardy and it's easy to see why the Gunners' fans are feeling a little frustrated. Arsenal looked to have stolen a march on their rivals with the early purchase of Granit Xhaka in May, but more than a month has passed since that deal was announced with little progress.
Asano will become the third Japanese player to represent Arsenal, following Junichi Inamoto and Ryo Miyaichi. He will hope to find more success than his compatriots, both of whom struggled to make much of an impact or come close to establishing themselves in the first-team during their time with the club.
However, Asano does at least seem to be a player of considerable potential. He was named as the J-League's Rookie of the Year in 2015, and is expected to play a significant part in Japan's squad at this summer's Olympic Games. He's very quick with a low centre of gravity and a cool head in front of goal. The success of Shinji Okazaki with 2015-16 Premier League champions Leicester City shows that, despite the struggles of Inamoto and Miyaichi, Japanese players can thrive in England.
What's more, Wenger has already stated that Asano is regarded as "very much one for the future." This, much like the Campbell deal, is a punt that could one day come good. It's the sort of strategic transfer that has become commonplace at Chelsea: if Asano excels in his loan spells, Arsenal will gain a useful player. If he doesn't do enough to earn a place in North London, the club may still be able to sell him for a profit. Wenger should be commended for keeping one eye on the club's future despite the fact that his current contract expires in just 12 months' time.
Arsenal fans should temper their discontent. Asano has not been signed as an alternative to Vardy, but merely as a part of the club's ongoing recruitment drive for young talent. The wait for a top class forward goes on, and Wenger should be able to deliver.
James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.